To Meme Or Not To Meme?

Like practically every other biped on this planet, I have a Facebook account. I made the switch to Facebook years ago when it felt like MySpace had become a training ground for trailer park girls trying to land their own episode of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant. I actually have two accounts: A Personal one I use to keep in touch with family and friends (if “friends” includes people from elementary school who I don’t remember but somehow are now really interested in what I did today) and a page I use to promote the independent wine distributor I work for.

Don’t worry, this blog post is not going to be some dry and tired dissertation on the implications and effects of Social Media on the wine business or society in general. As long as cats continue to do cute things, there will be Facebook. End of story. The challenge I’ve had with FB recently is how to keep fans of my business’ page engaged on a daily basis. The game of increasing “Likes” and having lots of comments to your posts is a lot like smoking crack, where you’re always trying to recapture the high of that first hit, but the second hit is never like the first, and by the third you’re just trying to maintain that baseline you got with the second. Or something like that. Not like I would know. Because I don’t. Moving on now.

Believe it or not, when you sell wine, something utterly fascinating and worth telling all your followers about does not happen on a daily basis. This makes it difficult to maintain that “daily engagement” that Social Media Gurus say is so critical to a successful campaign. Last week, things got so desperate that I found myself posting the following:

“Trucking company says order for retail shop in Martinez has to wait 24 hours due to logistics snafu. FML!” 

And can you believe it, not a single Like or Comment? And according to my Stats, the posting didn’t go viral at all. Maybe if the truck was driven by a cat…

Obviously, something had to change or even my old Middle School acquaintances were going to Unfriend me. Apparently, it was time to resort to the time-honored Facebook tradition of a Funny Meme. My 16-year-old son, who knew more about computers and the internet by age 11 than I still do, actually suggested I go the meme route. First, he had to tell me what the hell a meme is:

Noun:
  1. An element of a culture or behavior that may be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.
  2. An image, video, etc. that is passed electronically from one Internet user to another.

You see memes countless times every day on FB. The most popular ones these days involve black-and-white penciled drawings of Victorian-styled couples with captions that revolve around common themes like “you’re a bitch,” “I’m going to drink vodka,” and “your politics suck.” Hilarity ensues.

And believe it or not, these things work. I saw this one after looking for all of six seconds on my Home page:

Better yet, it had 213,442 Likes, a third as many Comments and 45,909 Shares. Oh yeah, baby! That’s what I’m talking about! Hey, I’m a clever guy – I’m gonna whip me out  one of these bad boys and in 24 hours have more Likes than Cute Funny Cats  (124,949 Likes as of this publishing).

Creating a funny meme is no problem. There are websites where you can go and pick your favorite Victorian drawing, insert your hilarious text, then upload your personification of comedic genius to your FB account. So with the click of a few buttons and the help of my muse, I brought my first funny wine meme to life:

Fun Fact: All Winemakers dress like Musketeers during the crush.

LOLZ! Hilarious, right? I know! Aptly enough, it was none other than Robert Parker who sent me my first Comment. Bob and I go way back to when we used to chug Lancer’s Rose in the back of his El Camino, listening to Boston on the 8-track and creating new characters for Dungeons & Dragons. Bob used to say things like, “On a scale of one to ten, this wine blows” and “On The Parker Scale, this Blue Nun is rhinoceros bile.” Little did we know, right? Anyway, Bob left the following Comment:

“Dude! I nearly blew my ’85 Pauillac out my nose when I saw this! FREAKING HILARIOUS! On The Parker Scale, I’d give this 100 points (if you bought the back cover to the November issue of Wine Advocate. J/K! Sort of ;-)”

But then get this: Afterwards, not a single Comment. Not a single Like, either, and no Shares. Nothing. From no one. Unbelievable. Maybe if the picture was a cat parading as a winemaking Musketeer…

So my son came to the rescue again, suggesting that perhaps I needed an age appropriate visual for my meme, along with text that was less technical in nature and more cutting edge (Direct Translation: “Gawd, Dad, could you be any more of a nerd? Try a Condescending Wonka with something more snarky”).

Yes, Condescending Wonka.

It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like, if you haven’t seen one yet yourself: A still shot of Gene Wilder from the classic 1971 film Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, looking at someone off camera in a manner that just oozes “I am so fascinated with what you are saying” in a truly condescending fashion.

So the next step was to think of something that was a little more snarky, perhaps self-deprecating, that matched the patronizing tone of the visual. After a little thought, I came up with this:

(Of course, one must have incredible self-confidence in the oversized dimensions of one’s own Man Luggage in order to make it the target of humor, and I have this in spades. Do you know why Atlas carries the world on his shoulders? Because my package was just too heavy. Now that’s a meme for the generations).

I showed it to my son and he had a full-on belly laugh, but then I realized that 16-year-olds will laugh at any penis-related humor, or in fact any word that sounds like, any object that looks like or any possible inference that can be made to Mr. Johnson. If I was trying to reach the Wine-Appreciating-16-Year-Old-Boy audience, I hit an absolute bullseye with this meme. If I wanted to reach more than three hipsters from SOMA, I’d have to think of something else.

You know what’s funny? Something that makes you laugh. That may sound obvious to the point of stupidity, but think about it: It’s something that makes you laugh. Even if no one else laughs, you’re still going to think it was funny. As the late Ricky Nelson so aptly put it, “you know you can’t please everyone so you gotta please yourself.” If I was going to post something funny yet wine-related on my FB page, I’d have to start with cracking myself up first. So with that in mind, I developed The Protesting Pinot Noir Bottle, Joining The 12.5% At Occupy Napa:Yeah. That’s funny. I look at this and I still laugh, even though the image was seen by all of 43 people, got two Likes and wasn’t shared once. But it’s my sense of humor, for better or worse. If a meme really is an element of behavior passed from one individual or one generation to another, then I’m cool with future Taylors seeing this one and understanding, “yeah, that was your great-great-grandfather JT. He was kind of weird and maybe kind of funny and tried to be creative and drank a lot of wine. He loved his family. He was alright.”

Trying To Create a Hilarious Wine Meme on Facebook That Would Go Totally Viral Without The Use of Cats Pairs With: Salamandre Wine Cellars 2008 Primitivo, Monterey County.

By the way, I don’t even know Robert Parker. Please don’t flame me.

When wine critics speak of “amusing wines,” it’s typically in a manner that would look right in a Condescending Wonka meme. Amusing wines are written off; worthy only as an afterthought to their more serious (usually Cabernet) brethren. But the ’08 Primitivo is definitely not the class clown, but more like The Joker from Batman. And not the weirdly fey Ceasar Romero Joker from the TV series, but straight-up psychopath Heath Ledger Joker from The Dark Knight. It has powerful residual sugar due to a whack November harvest, and an alcohol level to match – 17% says the label, but I’d peg this bad boy at 17.5% at least. Split a bottle of this with your friends and even Carrot Top becomes funny. The 2010 is set to be released soon and though I haven’t tried it yet, I understand it has a rather different profile. If you’re a fan of not-so-subtle humor and like your wines the same way, get your hands on a bottle of the ’08.

Comments 6

  • I stumbled onto your post through the latest listings in “humor”. I actually laughed my a** off when I saw your protesting pinot. What made it even more funny to me is that 100% of the 1% wouldn’t get the humor of the 12.5%.

  • Love it, keep ’em coming! I remember years ago I was at the market and overheard part of a conversation between two guys. They looked like they were about 19 and were searching for a wine that would impress the girls on their double date that evening. One of them picked up a bottle, looked at the label and said to his friend, “I can’t pronounce this, it must be good.” True story.

  • Lol …Nice article man great writing , entertaining . Its cool to drop links in our group as long as next time they are more pertainant to the theme . Great writing though again .

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